It’s a bittersweet day for me today; my 52 books in 52 weeks challenge is over. Last night I just wrapped up The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die, and as I finished the last page, I couldn’t believe how fast this past year went, It felt like I had just started this challenge the other day.

Regardless, I wanted to share with you how to read 52 books in 52 weeks and why I feel like I saved myself 21,000 dollars in the process. So grab a drink (and by drink I mean water or coffee—it’s still early and there’s a good chance you’re at work), stay a while, and I hope you enjoy the read.

Why even read 52 books in 52 weeks?

Interesting little fact: I had never read a book in its entirety until I was 22 (I think) years old. It was my junior year at Cal State Fullerton when I finished reading Money Ball by Michael Lewis. Soon after, I came to realize that this reading thing wasn’t so bad, as long as I choose books that I was actually interested in (damn you required reading in school). The very next day I was on to book #2 in my reading career and I officially crowned myself a bookworm.

What’s the point right? Why bother trying to read a book a week for a year? It’s pretty time-consuming and most of us lead busy lives and have other more important commitments to attend to. What could one possibly get from reading 52 books this next year?

1. Ideas, Ideas, Ideas: It helps me to generate ideas for not only this website, but for my life as well.
2. Knowledge/education: If you don’t use it you lose it (your brain, that is). It allows me to constantly keep learning about topics that interest me.
3. Helps me teach: Like many of you, I am passionate about teaching. The more I read, the more confidence I have in the ability to relay that information to others in hopes of helping them with their struggles.
4. It’s a challenge: Who doesn’t love a good challenge? We should always be doing something that pushes us in some way. Challenges help to build internal motivation, confidence, discipline, and willpower.
5. It’s cheaper than school: More on this later, but aside from 52 books costing me about 500 bucks in total, a college education would have cost me $21,000. Plus I got to learn about subjects I was particularly interested in. What I’ve learned in one year of reading far outweighs what I learned in four… make that eight (grad school) years of formal education.
6. Gets you out of your box: It gets you thinking outside of your comfort zone. You will be subject to new ideas, theories, and beliefs that require you to really evaluate how you currently do things and see the world.
7. The best teachers: You get access to some of the best minds and most successful teachers… for about 10-20 bucks—the greatest deal of all time.
8. Better relationships: Reading as allowed me to build better social relationships. I feel like it makes me more interesting, as I can talk about a bunch of different subjects now, and that makes for interesting conversation starters.
9. It’s just f-ing awesome: I repeat—it’s just f-ing awesome!

This list could easily keep going, but these were some of the things I felt should be shared with y’all… yup, dropping a y’all on you.

The “why” continued…

One of the main reasons I decided to take part in this challenge is because I’m a little disappointed in our educational system; now, I don’t want to turn this post into a debate about whether or not you or your kids should go to college because you or they should.

Formal education:

1. Provides you with a place to learn and understand how to learn.
2. Generates ideas.
3. Creates strong social relationships and allows you to make friends.
4. Teaches you a new language—by that I mean the language of the subject you are learning (i.e. business, psychology, philosophy, fashion, etc.).

The main problem I see is that I’m not sure your ROI (return on investment), or more importantly your ROT (return on your time), makes sense anymore.

  • The average in-state public tuition is now an average of $22,261
  • The average private school will run you $43,289

These costs include tuition, housing, meals, books, supplies, miscellaneous, and of course “fees”, which are never broken down for you; they are just lumped together. Fees usually include internet access, library access, parking, ID cards, a student union membership, diplomas and graduation expenses, etc. Room and board is even up about 65% over the last 10 years; It now averages about $9,200 in public schools and $10,600 in private schools.

I recently read a great article written by Mark Cuban asking if your college is going out of business where he compares major universities to the newspaper industry.

“…accumulating too much debt, mostly in the form of construction. Just look on any college campus, there are easily 2-3 new buildings going up at anyone time. Which typically offer little no now value in terms of better education. It just makes the campus look pretty as a selling point. A beautiful campus is great, but so what. You’re there to learn.”

  • Administrators are often making upwards to $200,000 or more.
  • Are intro classes and general education units really necessary considering the cost of them?
  • Most kids are now left with debt they will have for the better part of their lives.
  • Most people still don’t know what they want to do with their lives after they’re are done, or don’t find happiness and fulfillment in what they went to school for.

This is another reason I wanted to take on the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge: I wanted to see how feasible it would be to actually complete the challenge and then weigh it’s ROI and ROT versus that of a traditional college education.

How to actually read 52 books in 52 weeks

I apologize for the little rant up there but I felt it was necessary to explain one of the main reasons for taking on the challenge. Now for what you all really want to know: how you can do this too. It’s a lot easier than you think, and the great thing about this is that you can use it for anything you want to achieve. Playing piano, learning a new language, learning to dance.

1. Set it up as a S.M.A.R.T goal: This acronym has a million different meanings, and the way you define it is completely up to you. Some examples can be seen below, and make sure to visit this post and this one as well on limitless that talk about achieving goals.

S: Specific, significant
M: Measureable, meaningful
A: Acheiveable, action-oriented
R: Rewarding, realistic
T: Time-based, trackable

2. Choosing a book: I would choose which book I would be reading that week every Saturday night. I chose books based on recommendations from friends, mentors, or just my own personal interests in subjects I wanted to to learn about, and I tried my best to read a variety of subjects in order to get better at being human.

3. Shrinking the change: Thinking about reading a book every week for a year can be a bit overwhelming, but I made it less so by taking the number of pages in the book I was reading and dividing it by the number of days I would be reading that week.

I decided that I wanted to read 6 days a week and take one day off to let my brain chill, so a 300 page book divided by 6 days was only 50 pages per day. This was a much more manageable task, and less overwhelming.

4. Made an appointment with myself: I chose a specific time to read my pages every single day; an appointment with myself that I would not allow to be broken. Now, I have to be honest, I didn’t always read at this time but I was pretty darn close to it.

I decided that the best time for me to read my pages was first thing in the morning, so I started waking up a little bit earlier to get it in. I chose the morning because I know myself, and the later in the day the less likely I would have the desire, energy, or willpower to do what was required to achieve this goal.

If you have something you are trying to achieve, I highly suggest doing it first thing in the morning, whether it’s exercise, cooking meals, or working on a side business.

5. Gave myself breaks: Not every book I read was 300 pages long. Some were longer (Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. was over 700) and some where shorter (As a Man Thinketh was less than 100). The challenge was a grind and constantly reading longer books was taking its toll, so I wanted to make sure I stayed consistent; by choosing a few shorter reads, I was able to stay with the challenge without sacrificing quality content. (*note Titan was read over a few weeks while finishing others)

6. Be ready at all times: I carried my iPad or a copy of the book with me at all times, even if I had already read my pages earlier in the day; I would sneak in some extra reading at anytime I could. Bathroom breaks, sitting in the DMV, waiting for a gal pal to get ready to go out, in-between caching sessions. I was always ready to read.

7. I chose things I actually cared about: If you are reading this site then we probably have one thing in common: we’re both interested in getting better at being human beings. I made sure to choose books that I felt would help me to learn about that core concept.

Personal favorites, what I got out of the challenge, and a question for you

In this guy’s opinion, I learned more about life, success, philosophy, myself, other people, and the world around me in one year of reading then I have in my entire 8-year career in school. I fully enjoyed every single moment of it because not only I was doing something I felt was contributing to my own personal development, but was also allowing me to share valuable information with others that could help them as well.

It’s so hard to choose favorites, here are five that I would suggest putting on your list.

1. The 80/20 Principle: The secret to achieving more with less
2. Buddhism – Plain and Simple (regardless of your religious beliefs Just an amazing outlook on life)
3. The Greatest Miracle in The World & The Greatest Salesman in The World (read back to back)
4. The power of habit. Why we do what we do in life.
5. Willpower, rediscovering the greatest human strength

ok… one more :) The Fear Project

It’s possible

There are so many amazing resources available to us today that make self-education not only possible, but maybe even a preferred method of learning. Your return on investment and time far outweighs that of formal education, though, you may not get a nice piece of paper that validates your efforts.

Take advantage of these:

Skillshare
Udemy
The Personal MBA
Philospher’s Notes
Khan Academy
University of the People
Code Academy
MIT open courseware

There are a lot of passionate individuals out there who are removing personal limitations, taking big risks, and using the resources that are available to them. The next big thing might be right around the corner like this or this. And who knows? You may be the one who creates it.

resources: college data.comIs your college going bankrupt?-CNN money

Want to cultivate a lifetime reading habit? Here's a related article for you: 14 Ways to Cultivate a Lifetime Reading Habit

Featured photo credit: Woman lying in a hammock in a garden and enjoying a book reading via Shutterstock

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